This rant is about abusive moderators in online forums. Unfortunately, forum members aren’t the lone source of abusive and insane behavior in online forums. In my experience, it is common for moderators to be not quite right in the head.
Once upon a time, back in the late 1990s I was a regular member of an online forum. It was a popular one that was moderated solely by the owner of the forum. There were some interesting personalities on there and I learned a lot about effective written communication there. As this popular forum grew, it became increasingly abusive and as many of the regular posters shared details of their personal lives there, it became apparent that many of them were truly mentally ill. Lots of them had diagnosed mental conditions of some kind and many were on medication. It got to the point where some posters there began warning others about all the psychos at this particular forum. Eventually, the crazies pretty much took over and the forum seemed to become a caricature of itself. Finally, the owner sadly shut it down.
But, a large group of dedicated, regular members were not ready for it to go away and one of them established her own forum and invited all the members to join. At the new forum, the usual discussions and occasional flame wars went on and things didn’t seem all that different. After a while, I began to realize that the owner and moderator of this forum was using multiple User IDs. She had her regular account and, at least, one sock puppet account. A sock puppet, for anyone unfamiliar with this term, is a fraudulent secondary account someone establishes in order to pretend to be someone else.
Using her sock puppet IDs, this apparently schizophrenic moderator would pose as other posters in order to start heated discussions, hurl insults and instigate all kinds of problems. While she was doing this, she, also, falsely accused other posters of having fraudlent accounts. She claimed she knew they were fake accounts because she could see that the IP addresses were the same, etc. But, she was the one who had the multiple accounts and was starting arguments with “herself” and other posters so she could step in and moderate them.
This completely insane person, also, had access to people’s e-mail addresses, which they used to sign up for an account. The entire forum turned into an opportunity for this crazy person to lure people in, gain some measure of control over them, then feed off the emotional chaos she manufactured. In other words, this person was probably a narcissist or a psychotic or had some other kind of mental disorder. She was from that pool of people from the original forum, many of whom were suffering from serious mental illnesses.
Now, apart from insanity, why would anyone want to own or moderate a forum?
The answer is, of course, money.
How Forums Make Money
Back in the 1990s, there were not a lot of affiliate programs and there was no Google AdSense. Amazon started the first online affiliate program, but just as it is now, it didn’t pay well then, either. It might generate enough money for the forum owner to cover part of the cost of hosting and domain. They, also, operated off PayPal donations from regular forum users.
But, 15 years later, things have changed a lot. People have forums usually either to promote products they’re selling or to generate passive income through advertising revenues. When you go to a forum and you see lots of ads, then you know this is how they’re doing it. Forums that don’t have ads are usually support forums for a product or service.
Many big forums these days don’t employ a lot of human moderators. Instead, they are moderated by some kind of automated complaint and review process or automatic filtering.
But, a few larger forums still use human moderators – sometimes multiple moderators. Sometimes they are the owner of the forum, but if it’s a very large one, they have to find other people to moderate. Usually, these people are unpaid volunteers. Sometimes they are personal friends of the site owner, although more often they are frequent posters at the forum who volunteer for the job.
While there are some basic guidelines that can be given to forum moderators to help them do their jobs more effectively, there is nothing to do about the fact that many, if not most, people who volunteer to be moderators are personality disordered individuals. Some of these volunteers are narcissists who enjoy the sense of power and adulation that comes from the position of being a moderator. At many forums – and I have complained most recently about the Writ’ers Cafe at KBoards (formerly Kindleboards) because I have seen outrageous examples of this relationship there – the moderators are like some sort of gods who are never to be questioned and always to be praised and worshiped by the members of the forum. This is the narcissist-psychopant pairing I have previously ranted about – they go together like bread and butter.
Moderators set the tone at a forum, so if they’re crazy, then it quickly becomes a congregation of crazy posters as more normal people who want to join the discussion are soon repelled by their online activities or actually bullied off the forum because they are not properly participating in the mentally ill social dynamics of the forum.
As long as the core of crazies remains, the forum can continue to make money and that’s the most important thing in the case of forums that have advertisements everywhere. A heated discussion that turns into an explosion brings lots of visitors to their forum. If it’s bad enough, it generates discussion elsewhere online, which means more visitors to the site and more visitors means more revenues for the owners. It plumps their monthly visitor totals and if visitors click on ads, it increases their affiliate revenues.
So, these are the reasons how and why a forum can function with crazy moderators and equally crazy members and continue to generate revenues for the owner. And, what do the volunteer moderators get out of it? They get to feed. They get their narcissistic “supply.” It’s kind of like paying musicians in beer to play at your night club. It’s not money, but it’s something they crave, so they’ll work for it.
I will conclude by reiterating some of the things I’ve said in previous rants revolving around this subject, particularly about writer’s forums like the Writer’s Cafe at Kboards that encourages you to share information about yourself upfront, although this applies to any online forums.
Remember: When you sign up somewhere or even place a comment somewhere online – like at a blog (like this one) – you are leaving information someone can use to trace you. You never know who you’re dealing with online and I swear there is an increasing number of crazy people everywhere right now. This means you do not know if the owners and moderators of the forum are stable people or if they’re sociopaths or psychotics who are going to track you down and cause trouble for you. This has happened to people. Furthermore, there’s a very good chance – in fact, I’d say it’s 100% in a forum of any size – that you are posting along side people who have serious mental disorders.
Do not sign up with your regular e-mail address. Use a throw-away email account that cannot be traced to you.
Choose a throw-away email name and a UserID at the forum that have absolutely nothing to do with you, ie. your preferences for anything whatsoever, where you live, your interests, etc. (If you like knitting, choose a handle that has something to do with skydiving; if your favorite food is hamburgers, then pick a handle that has something to do with Chinese food; and so on…). Also, choose something common that would be difficult to trace anywhere and never use it anywhere else except for at that particular forum.
Do not provide personal information about yourself of any kind – obviously never give financial information. Don’t brag about your income, what you own, your children, your pets, etc. In writing forums do not talk about your work. Certainly, do not provide links to where your books can be found – despite whatever they’re telling you, a help forum where you interact with other authors is not the place to market your books!
Also, do not post picture of yourself or your family – especially if you are a woman, do not post a picture of yourself. Do not post pictures of your children for the same reason. There are sickos online who will become fixated on you or your child just based on a glimpse of a photo – it has happened to me and countless other women and it can ruin your life. So, be very careful.
In fact, do not post any photos, at all – especially those taken with a camera that can provide your GPS (Global Positioning System) location – like a cell phone photo can – to someone who might want to harm you. These photos are stamped with the latitude and longitude at which they were taken, so even if you take a picture of your pet gremlin frolicking in the grass of your backyard, someone could use that picture to locate you.
You don’t have to do or say anything wrong in a forum to have a problem. Just asking the wrong question over at a place like Writer’s Cafe Kboards can cause some people to go crazy and start harassing you – pretty soon, you’ll have a mob of them at a forum with a major narcissist-sycophant dynamic going on. See the “Rant on Kindleboards or Kboards Writer’s Cafe.”)
Get the information you need from the forum and get out. Remember, the way these forums make money is by your visits and the content you provide them with. When you type something at a forum – they own it – you are voluntarily contributing valuable content to their site, from which they profit. Keep that in mind and ask yourself if you want to contribute content to a site owned and run by crazy, abusive people. If you run across a forum like that – don’t feed the vampiric moderators or help fatten the owners’ profits by voluntarily contributing your content – especially if you are someone full of valuable insights. It won’t be appreciated by such people, anyway.
Read More About Crazy, Abusive Posters and Moderators in Online Forums:
Discusses cliquish forums and bad moderators with personal stories: http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=93089.0
Article on How to Deal with a Forum Bully – I really like her final word of advice!: http://voices.yahoo.com/online-forum-etiquette-deal-forum-bully-796861.html?cat=15
Good general article on the subject of Online Forum Bullies. It advises reporting forum bullies to the moderators, but this is useless advice if you have moderators who are, themselves, bullies and enjoy online bloodsports. Some personal stories of online forum bulllying are shared in the comments section at the end: http://chataboutyou.com/online-forum-bully
Interesting article about what to do if you own a forum and your moderators go bad. The comments section has personal stories of being bullied by cliquish posters and crazy moderators. This quote entitled “Scumbag Moderators” is mind-blowing because I’d swear they were talking about the Writer’s Cafe at Kboards because it describes exactly what goes on there – “I know a forum with scumbag moderators. The place is like a cult gathering. The mods will arbitrarily take issue with someone, almost always a new member, but not often enough for people to realize that the mods are a-holes – and they will make them feel unwelcome and treated unfairly… …It is truly a disgusting collection of egos.” Read more at the following link: http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/013440.html
Videos About Bad Behavior on Message Boards
I recommend listening to this video, but not watching it – the guy is eating and he has very poor table manners, but he makes some interesting points. Warning for some offensive language:
Rant on experience in Wiccan forums:
Rant on Message Boards: